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Maybe it’s the fact that the days start to get longer again in only a fortnight, but there’s mood of rising optimism in Irish sailing these days writes W M Nixon. There’s an almost measurable buzz in the air which is spearheaded by the pace-setting Fintan Cairns-inspired DBSC Turkey Shoot Series in Dublin Bay, and given substantial extra boosts by long-established Autumn and Winter series going full blast at other centres.

This fresh zest for our sport is supported by more traditionally-minded sailors. They may have preferred to bring their season to a close in October or November with their boats properly laid up for the winter, but the amount of work they have going on behind the scenes to get new initiatives up and running, while keeping existing programmes in good and growing health, is a remarkable reflection on the value of the voluntary effort and input which sailing inspires.

fintan cairns2The Man Who Makes It Happen – Fintan Cairns, main driver of DBSC’s Turkey Shoot series

As one leading big-boat contender in the Turkey Shoot has put it: “If it wasn’t for the continuing enthusiasm of Fintan and his team chivvying us out there every Sunday morning, and then being on station with the Committee Boat to set another excellent course, then I don’t think half of us would think of taking part in a series which takes us right up to the very threshold of Christmas. Yet here it is, week after week for seven Sundays with a splendidly varied fleet of 75 boats, and the mood is euphoric – it feels like the best racing we’ve had all year, and it probably is”.

The regular reports in give some idea of the pace of the sport and the calibre of the racing, yet although there are so many relatively new contenders involved that it has been commented that the Turkey Shoot 2018 is for all the world like a live Boat Show afloat and racing, it’s somehow reassuring to note that going into this weekend’s race, the overall leader is Sean O’Regan’s vintage Dehler 31 Vespucci.

justina turkey shoot3“Making mince of the Dublin Bay chop” – John Treanor’s new Grand Soleil 34 Justitna. Photo: O’Brien

That said, if we were to choose a “Marque of the Year” in Irish sailing, the Grand Soleil brand from Italy would definitely be on the shortlist, with John Treanor’s new Grand Soleil 34 Justtina turning many heads in the Turkey Shoot as she makes mince of the Dublin Bay chop.

Through the season, Frank Whelan’s Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera from Greystones set the pace on both the east and south coasts, while on the south coast the Murphy family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo rounded out a great season by being made the Royal Cork YC’s “Keelboat of the Year”.

gs40 nieulargo4Classy performer – the Murphy family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo brings teak deck style to the front of the fleet. Photo: Bob Bateman

Still on the south coast, as our colleague Tom MacSweeney was reporting, the recent AGM of the South Coast Offshore Racing Association brought a breath of fresh air with the much-approved election of Johanna Murphy of Great Island SC as the first woman sailor to be Commodore. She takes up the role with a clear vision of encouraging coastal passage races, but as such races have to be fitted in with the increasing number of club At Homes, the demand on premium dates is high.

A further challenge was added to the brew at the AGM with a significant presence from Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East, seeking to have their historic yet expanding club included in the SCORA programme. This is quite a challenge, as it’s all of 50 nautical miles and more from Cork Harbour to Dunmore East. That’s fine and dandy if the SCORA main fleet race there from Cork Harbour with a grand following breeze, but problems of logistics arise when they face the uphill slog home.

johanna murphy5Early Christmas present for Johannna Murphy of Cork Harbour’s Great Island SC – she’s the new Commodore of the South Coast Offshore Racing Association. Photo: Bob Bateman

Nevertheless in due course there’s no doubt Dunmore East will be back in the offshore racing picture, just as in due course a fleet of J/109s has developed in Dublin Bay as everyone hoped for years would eventually happen. And not only is God in his heaven with ace MOB rescuer Tim Goodbody in the lead in White Mischief in the J/109s racing in the Turkey Shoot, but this week it has been revealed that the latest addition to the class is newly-elected ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell, back in harness with his former longtime campaigning partner Johnny Murphy with their recently-acquired J/109 Outrajeous. They’ll be keeping her at their home port of Howth, increasing the likelihood of further sister-ships there, as they’ll be joining Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles with Indian, and the daddy of them all, Pat Kelly with the all-conquering Storm.

white mischief6Tim Goodbody’s White Mischief gets the best of a J/109 start in the Turkey Shoot series. The class is extending its reach with Outrajeous (Richard Cowell & Johnny Murphy) joining the pair in Howth. Photo: O’Brien

Howth, with its winter Laser Frostbites dating from 1974 and its keelboats Brass Monkey series now in its 32nd year, continues to be a hive of activity. In fact if anything the colourful sailing/fishing harbour as a whole had a problem of success, as it has become such a visitor magnet that, on a good weekend, the quaysides and waterfront roads can get distinctly crowded.

A series of fortuitous circumstances have brought about the situation whereby the place can offer such an attractive visitor experience. When the harbour was undergoing its massive re-development in the 1980s, the original plan was that all the ancient and often quaint buildings of the West Pier should be swept away to provide the maximum of space for fishing-related work and vehicle movements. But by some miracle they all were saved, and today the colourful line of buildings down the West Pier is home to more popular and varied seafood restaurants than you could count, cheek-by-jowl with marine industry workshops. And the old Mariner’s Hall, originally built as “The Prayer House” for visiting Scottish fishermen, has been saved from demolition and is currently having its roof replaced with such attention to detail that its woodwork will become a special architectural feature.

howth harbour7Howth’s complex and often very busy harbour. Its necessary dredging has now been recognised as a Major Infrastructural Project

But while everything above the water around Howth’s increasingly tidy yet ever busier harbour seems to be going fine, under the sea’s surface things aren’t so good, as bits of the harbour badly need dredging. In the Netherlands where they’re the world leaders in building and maintaining maritime structure, all harbours are automatically dredged every five years at least. But in Howth although the harbour as we know it now dates back to 1982, there has been only piecemeal dredging and channel clearance, and a major infrastructural project is on the cards.

With this in mind, leading Howth fisherman Sean Doran and local Senator Catherine Noone and others set about arranging a top level visit which would bring Howth’s problems home to Government at the highest level. They reckoned that the case would be best put if the Government could meet representatives of all the harbour stakeholders in an effort to gauge how much could be maintained and added to local economic activity by bringing the harbour depths up to the required standards.

leo and joe8Taoiseach Leo Varadker with Howth YC Commodore Joe McPeake in the clubhouse last weekend. Photo: HYC/Brian Turvey

It’s only when you set out to arrange such a gathering that you become fully aware of how many revenue-generating and employment activities a harbour as diverse as Howth can encompass. When local TD and Government Minister Richard Bruton and Senator Noone set out last Saturday afternoon with Fingal Mayor Councillor Anthony Lavin to show Taoiseach Leo Varadkar round Howth Harbour and meet the people who make it work, it was one busy day, with harbourmaster Captain Harry McLoughlin and others taking the fact-finding group on a mission which started with the many fishing enterprises and the shore facilities for the regular summer ferry route to Dublin and Dun Laoghaire, went on with a wide variety of retail and workshop outfits, seemed to take in everything possible to improve the harbour, and then concluded with a much-needed cup of tea in Howth Yacht Club where Commodore Joe McPeake and his team were able to introduce the Taoiseach to sailors at every level from absolute beginners to Olympic 49er Under 23 Gold Medallists Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove, while at the same time providing information about how Howth YC’s Quest Sailing School is reaching out to people from every background.

howth group9In Howth YC are (left to right) 49er Under 23 Gold Medallist Robert Dickson, Mayor of Fingal Councillor Anthony Lavin, Taoiseach Leo Varadker, Senator Catherine Noone, Gold Medallist Sean Waddilove and HYC Commodore Joe McPeake, with Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment also in photo. Photo: HYC/Brian Turvey

It was a mutually informative yet pleasantly informal gathering, sweetened by the news that the dredging of Howth Harbour is now agreed as a Major Infrastructural Project. And for any busy yacht or sailing club to be given this opportunity to see itself as others see it, and to see particularly how well - with mutual goodwill - it fits in and interacts with the community around it, well, that was a real tonic for the membership.

But then, having been at the annual dinner of the historic Howth Seventeen Foot Class in the clubhouse the night before, your correspondent was already reassured about the basic good health of HYC. For this might well have been the 120th Annual Dinner of the Howth Seventeens, as they were founded in 1898. But with a convivially packed house with 128 present, the mood was so youthful it could have been the first Annual Dinner of all, for age shall not weary them.

howth seventeens10“Age shall not weary them….” The Howth 17s held what may well have been their 120th Annual Dinner last weekend, but as they know they were founded in 1898, nobody has been counting. Photo: W M Nixon

And even when it does, the Seventeens have a remarkable capacity for renewal, headed in the 1970s by Nick Massey, and more recently kept simmering by Ian Malcolm. Their capacity for re-birth is extraordinary, and thus the Howth Seventeen people are among the most appreciative of a small beautifully-restored yacht which quietly appeared in their marina back in September.

This is the 23ft Laurent Giles-designed L Class Iduna, originally built in 1938 and bought in 1948 by the late Roger Bourke of Limerick and Foynes. Iduna is now owned by his son Robert for whom she has been restored by Howth master-shipwright Johnny Leonard, who is indeed connected to the great County Cork boat-building clan.

Iduna dec11The restored 80-year-old Iduna, brought to new life by Johnny Leonard of Howth. Photo: W M Nixon

Iduna, as restored by those Leonard skills, simply glows – there’s no other word for it. And in time when finishing jobs have been completed, she’ll be based in Dun Laoghaire though her home port will always be Foynes, as her owner moves between bases in Limerick and Dublin. But for now, she’s an adornment in Howth marina, and anyone feeling the winter glooms only has to go and look at her to feel better.

In fact, the health benefits of seeing a good boat restoration cannot be underestimated, and down West Cork way they almost have a regional service in this feel-good factor, what with Ilen being restored at Oldcourt where Saoirse is now being re-built, while across at Ballydehob, Tiernan Roe has the fine job of restoring The Lady Min underway for the O’Keeffe family of Schull, and nearby Rui Ferreira – already well proven in classic boat restoration and new-build - has Dublin Bay Water Wag No 49 under new construction for Martin Byrne.

water wag fortynine12Rui Ferreira of Ballydehob with the new Water Wag, no 49 to a design from 1900. Photo: Ian Malcolm

This is being done to such an exquisite standard that you’d think she should be put straight into a glass case for permanent display purposes. Between all these restorations and new-build projects, together with the good news about re-vitalised sailing enthusiasm and increased government awareness of harbour needs, there’s a fresh zing to the sea air which launches Irish sailing towards 2019 with vigorous optimism.

water wag fortynine13The classic Water Wag, designed 118 years ago by Maimie Doyle, daughter of boatbuilder James Doyle. Photo: Ian Malcol

water wag fortynine14Rui Ferreira is renowned for his attention to detail in classic boat-building, and with Water Wag 49 he has excelled himself. Photo: Ian Malcolm

Published in Dublin Bay

A consignment of huge granite boulders has arrived into Dun Laoghaire by barge to be used as rock armour to protect Dun Laoghaire's new jetty from erosion.

The new Scotsman's Bay quay, as previously reported, which has taken shape this winter, is Dublin's newest quay for swimming and fishing. It is also intended to be an embarkation point for small boats and canoes.

The rock armour to surround the new jetty can only be positioned at sea at certain stages of the tide, a job that is expected to take a fortnight to complete, weather permitting.

Published in Dublin Bay
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The start sequence for this Sunday's second DBSC Turkey Shoot race will repeat the starts of last week's opening race that was won by the RIYC J109 White Mischief. Results here

 A great Turkey Shoot turnout out of 65 boats from an entry of 75 is a major boost for winter sailing on Dublin Bay.

Handicaps and starts for the second race sponsored by Citroen are downloadable below with a reminder that due to World War One centenary commemorations the first start is 1410 this Sunday.

The DMYC Dinghy Frostbite series will be in progress in the harbour with a first gun 13.57. There are 91 entries in the dinghy event, so the harbour will be busy from about 1.30 onward. Turkey Shoot yachts heading to the bay are asked to keep clear of the dinghy race course.

Published in Turkey Shoot
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Writing in the Irish Times Sailing Column this morning, David O'Brien predicts that Colin Byrne's XP33 'Bon Exemple' will be the winner of the top performing cruiser-racer in the country's biggest racing fleet this season. Dublin Bay Sailing Club has yet to announce its six premier awards for its gala prizegiving in a fortnight's time but front-runners are already clear from the summer season's results.

This morning's sailing column also reveals how outgoing Commodore Chris Moore is to fill the shoes of the DBSC Hon Sec Donal O'Sullivan who retires after 27 years in the role.

For much more click here.

Published in X-Yachts GB & IRL
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This year's Centenary of the wartime sinking of the mailboat RMS Leinster on 10th October 1918 will see a significant Dun Laoghaire and national commemoration on the day itself writes W M Nixon. As part of the buildup to those official events on Wednesday 10th October 2018, this weekend the sailing community is giving special Leinster Centenary emphasis to two major annual events on Sunday - the Dun Laoghaire Motor YC's Kish Race, and the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association Leinster Plate Race.

Inaugurated in 2013 in memory of the Leinster tragedy, the Leinster Plate was presented by the Post Office Workers Union to the DB Old Gaffers Association to mark the OGA’s Golden Jubilee in that year, and to particularly recall that the numerous death toll on the Leinster included 21 postal workers who had been working in the ship’s sorting room at the time the torpedo struck. Normally the Leinster Plate would be raced for in June. But for 2018, the Race will be held this Sunday, 23rd September, in conjunction with the annual Kish Race organised by the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. DMYC expects that there will be approximately 70 boats competing in the Kish Race.

The main Kish Race starts just outside Dun Laoghaire harbour at 1030 on Sunday morning and the DBOGA Leinster Plate Race will start on the same line at 1045. As usual, the DBOGA course will either follow or cross the track of the RMS Leinster on that fateful day in 1918. The Leinster Plate will be presented to the winner during the official commemorations in Dun Laoghaire on October 10th. Starting this year, the winner will also be presented with a replica of the Leinster Plate which he or she will retain for the year.

This Saturday 22nd September, DBOGA (most of whom are based at Poolbeg Y & BC) will organise an afternoon race, starting around 1500 hrs near Poolbeg Lighthouse, to take the fleet to Dun Laoghaire. VHF channel 77 will be used for race information on Saturday afternoon. Boats will moor in Dun Laoghaire Marina on Saturday night, and there will be a social evening hosted by DMYC in their clubhouse.

However, in view of the unsettled period of exceptionally stormy weather being currently experienced, DBOGA have stated that they will be making a definitive confirmation of their weekend’s arrangements on Saturday morning. Meanwhile, Neil Colin of DMYC and organiser of the Kish Race has been closely monitoring the weather and a range of prediction sources and agrees that while some forecasts are not favourable, others are more optimistic for Sunday. He told this morning:

“We plan to stand over our plans to run the Kish race as scheduled but will review the situation on Saturday. Our contingency plan is simply to postpone the race one week, to Sunday 30th September, and in the event, we have to abandon, all entries will be fully refunded.

While we aim to be responsible organisers, the final responsibility rests with the Skippers to consider the safety of their crew and craft, and to make the decision to sail or not, bearing in mind their own abilities and expectations”.

Published in Dublin Bay
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Dublin Bay Sailing Club's (DBSC) 2018 Saturday programme will proceed as scheduled now that the Waterfront Club Regatta season has concluded on Dublin Bay.

DBSC will have the usual combination of Hut and committee boat starts for its Saturday racing. 

This Saturday, the 14th July, the Red Fleet will start at MacLir and the Blue Fleet at the Hut, according to DBSC Hon Secretary Donal O’Sullivan who has set out the programme in a circular to the club's 22 classes.

Meanwhile, click below for's coverage of the Dublin regatta season: 

Wave Regatta at Howth Yacht Club 

DMYC 'King of the Bay' Regatta

National Yacht Club Regatta 

Royal Irish Yacht Club Regatta

Royal St. George Yacht Club Regatta

Published in DBSC
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DMYC kicks off the 2018 Dun Laoghaire Regatta season this Saturday with their “King of the Bay” regatta. It looks as if the weather gods are still favouring this weekend's sailing activities, with a Northeasterly, 10–knots forecast and a likelihood of a sea breeze filling in, to make sailing more interesting.

Racing starts for the cruisers and yachts at 11.30 off the West Pier, and at12.00 for the dinghies in Seapoint Bay. While the Dublin Bay hut is still not in position, it is planned to be put in place on Saturday morning after alteration to the base structure. “We also have a Plan B”, says DMYC's Neil Colin.

In what the DMYC describes as 'an effort to shake up the traditional regatta format' and 'encourage entries from outside the traditional Dublin Bay Sailing Club classes', the cruiser/yacht racing is on a semi–coastal course, while the dinghies race initially in a pursuit race “hare & tortoise” style, where the leader at the time limit is the winner, followed by a traditional PY handicap race.

"Cruiser/yacht racing is on a 'semi–coastal' course"

Entries have been brisk over the recent days ranging from J109’s to Lasers, with the regular Dublin Bay One Design classes such as Ruffians, Flying Fifteens and Shipmans are well represented.

The entry is available on the club website here. As a special encouragement, the late entry fee has been waived.

Published in DMYC
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When sailors arrived to rig for the DMYC Dinghy Frostbites on Sunday the wind was considerably less than the 6-12 knots promised by Windguru but by the time boats got afloat an encouraging 8 knots plus ENE had kicked in. The race committee broke with the winter long tradition of racing inside the harbour and headed out to sea to set a startline in the lee of the west pier. Sadly the wind decreased and flicked about making it difficult for the committee to settle the windward mark of the triangular course. By the time the fast PY/Fireball start was underway the fleet were faced with a slop but precious little air to get off the line. Lingering on their startline were some Lasers from the previous start who just couldn't get moving. The Fireballs, 470, Finn and K1 all managed to ghost off the line but some did better than others. Starting near the committee boat Noel Butler and guest crew got away most cleanly followed by Neil Colin/Margaret Casey, David & Michael Keegan and wallowing behind them Frank Miller/Ed Butler and Mick Creighton /Hermine O'Keeffe. The latter were particularly unfortunate to find the worst hole on the line.

On the beat Butler went middle-right while Miller and Keegan went close to the port layline. It was clear to everyone that the better wind was out to sea but getting out to it was downright painful. The top reach had a good angle and a fair breeze which saw Butler lead Colin, the Keegans, Miller and Creighton. On the very broad second reach the breeze faded again and the boats took very different angles towards the leeward. Butler went sharp left to keep his boat moving, Colin went somewhat right while Miller and the Keegans soaked down in a slow straight line. This paid off for Miller who arrived at the leeward behind Butler but ahead of the rest. By this stage the breeze, if you could call it a breeze, had shifted left and getting to the weather mark seemed a straight line fetch. This left Miller looking good as Butler had gone initially right but on that fetch the breeze died away for a time leaving him going backwards in a hole with the tide pushing him away from the mark.

The Committe boat now accepted the inevitable and steamed to the windward to shorten course. Butler managed to get to the right hand layline and finished quite smartly while the rest struggled on up the "beat" which at times was now a run according to spinning burgees. Colin sailed a higher angle than Miller and came very close to overtaking but Miller found a zepher and got moving again and finished some 20 seconds ahead. To both their surprise Creighton finished immediately behind having somehow snuck up from the right, with the Keegans finishing next. With PY adjustments Butler was the clear winner but on adjustment Des Fortune in his Finn and Tom Murphy in his K1 had squeezed in ahead of Miller, Colin and Keegan and Gerry Ryan with Jim McAree in their 470 had nipped in ahead of the Keegans.

In the overall series in Fast PY Butler/Marie Barry are the unassailable leaders on 11 points with Miller/Ed Butler on 31 points, Neil Colin/Mgt Casey on 49 points and Des Fortune on 58 points. There are two more sailing Sundays with the final race taking place on the 24th.

Published in DMYC
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It was a well known Dublin Bay sailor who came to the rescue of a swimmer at the height of Storm Emma yesterday in the popular bathing spot of Sandycove in County Dublin.

As social media revealed, it was the quick thinking actions of Royal St. George Yacht Club member Philip Lee, a Dun Laoghaire resident, that led to the successful rescue at the storm lashed harbour, a location where the Coastguard had earlier urged people to stay out of the water.

Lee made a skilful and exceptionally long and accurate throw of the lifebuoy (see video below), enabling the woman swimmer to grab on to the line. Her location at the time of the incident was periously close to the harbour mouth where she risked being swept out to sea.

The footage posted on social media shows people rushing to help the woman.

The coastal road in Dun Laoghaire was closed due to high winds and flooding.

The gardaí confirmed the incident, stating that a few people took to the water during the code red weather alert.

The Coastguard have urged people to act responsibly and not to go swimming in any lakes, rivers or in the sea.

Published in Dublin Bay
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Taking flight from Dún Laoghaire Harbour on Sunday, 20th May, the Red Bull Flugtag will return to Irish shores this summer. It will see over 50 teams attempt to push the limits of human flight, as they launch their handcrafted flying machines in front of over 40,000 spectators. 

Red Bull Flugtag challenges the brave and brainy to design, build and pilot homemade flying machines off a 9-metre high flight deck, in the hope of soaring into the wild blue yonder…or more often, to plunge into the waters below. Flugtag, which means “flying day” in German, pushes the envelope of human-powered flight but competitors need more than airtime to reach the podium. Teams are judged on three criteria: flight distance, creativity of the craft, and showmanship. These criteria have inspired flying tacos, prehistoric pterodactyls, and even Snoopy and the gang to grace the Flugtag flight decks! 

In 2011, Dublin celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Red Bull Flugtag series and they are bringing back the madness to the capital on 20th May, 2018. 

If you are interested in participating, applications open 21st February. Five-member teams of aspiring aviators and courageous craftsmen and women can apply for a chance to compete at Red Bull Flugtag 2018 by submitting flying-machine plans. The deadline to submit craft designs is 31st March. 

Applying to participate in Red Bull Flugtag is free. Pilots and participants must be 18 or older.

Published in Dublin Bay
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